Myths of English Creative Writing
Parents are always on the lookout for that extra edge for their children, whether it be academic subjects or enrichment activities. One of the top things on their agenda is boosting their child’s “Creative Writing” skills. However, in Singapore, “Creative Writing” tends to overlap with PSLE Composition Writing. In this article, we hope to dispel some of the misconceptions surrounding the notion of “Creative Writing” in the context of the primary school syllabus in Singapore.
Myth 1: Creative Writing means learning new ideas to write more interesting PSLE compositions
Often, parents enquire about creative writing classes for their children, with a view to preparing them for the national examinations.
In practice, there is a slight difference between the PSLE composition writer and the creative writer. Most parents are aware of the stringent requirements of the PSLE composition component. Students must adhere very strictly to certain rules, such as the grammatical rules of sentence construction. Hence, parents look for ways in which their child can inject fresh ideas to make the composition stand out, thereby garnering higher content marks. Creative Writers do not necessarily have such constraints; they are free to break the established rules, if it adds a new dimension to their writing. Thus, the creative writer does not necessarily do well at the PSLE.
At Learniva Tuition Agency, our teachers often brainstorm content and plotlines with the students and where applicable, incorporate some of the techniques of creative writers, for instance to foreshadow events, set up expectations or introduce a new twist to their story.
Myth 2: Creative Writing means “using big words” in writing
There is no doubt that a good command of the English language and vocabulary is crucial to a writer’s craft. In some circles, this has been misconstrued to mean that a good piece of writing depends on how many bombastic word one can use.
This is a dangerous myth that must be debunked. Creative Writing, and writing well in general, requires sensitivity to the language. Tutors are not doing their students any favours when they provide lists upon lists of synonyms and “creative phrases” to be used for some of the more common scenarios that pop up in the examinations.
Our home tutors are well aware of this, and make it a point to go through the nuances of language during class. In this way, our students do not leave the class with the mistaken notion that they must memorise phrases to regurgitate in their composition. In fact, forcing “big” words and phrases into their writing without a good understanding of some basic language structures can result in oddly worded, even illogical compositions.
Myth 3: Creative Writers can hammer out a perfect first draft
Some people conceive of the writer as an inspired artist who, chancing upon an idea, writes furiously and comes up with the perfect novel. Nothing could be further from the truth. Creative Writing involves a great deal of planning, even for the most seasoned writer. The PSLE composition writer also has to do the same. However, whereas the PSLE student has to get his draft right during the course of the examination, the creative writer is not constrained by time; the latter can finish a draft, come back to it in a few days and revise it to his heart’s content.
To expedite the process of constructing and delivering a well-crafted composition, our teachers go through some of the most important techniques students need to craft the best composition they can under examination conditions.
Furthermore, compositions are written on a regular basis, which gives the students ample practice and allow teachers to impart crucial writing skills by building upon previous work. The result is a student who can plan and draft an A* composition when it really counts.
Are some people naturally talented at writing? What really is Creative Writing, anyway?
While it is true that some people take to the English language quite naturally, it doesn’t mean that Creative Writing is beyond the reach of students. Thus far, we have discussed the differences between Creative Writing and PSLE writing. Now, we need to also be aware that fundamentally, sound writing is about technique, and anyone can learn techniques.
The PSLE student learns the techniques and applies them in his writing.
The Creative writer applies the techniques in his writing, and experiments with breaking some rules to see how it affects his writing.
If you are looking around for a “Creative Writing” class, do take a moment to ask yourself if you are looking for classes that will teach techniques and ideas, or if you are looking for classes to develop a good writer into a mature one.